Cultural study circles share dialogue results

Wednesday, March 21, 2001 at 1:00am

Eight groups of Nashvillians revealed the results of a five-week program developed to foster understanding among different cultures and races. The groups met together Monday night at the Scarritt-Bennett Center on 19th Avenue South to discuss the results of their respective study circles.

For the first time since the circles began here in 1997, a group of teen-agers and a group comprised of Jewish and Muslim members participated. The groups are usually race related.

Nashville DID! (Diversity in Dialogue) sponsors the circles. The program focuses on bringing people together for honest and open dialogue.

The groups advocated more communication between students and teachers, more dialogue between diverse groups and the creation of study circle book clubs to educate members on race-related issues.

The 10 members of the teen group are from Glencliff High School. They met twice a week for five weeks.

Knista Chayangkura, who grew up in Nashville as the daughter of immigrants from Thailand, said the teen group planned to continue the sessions.

The teen-agers said in their discussions they saw the need for more teacher education on ethnic diversity. Other school issues they brought up include smaller classes and more open dialogue between teachers and students.

The other experimental group included Jewish and Muslim participants. Dan Heller, a Jewish participant, said the study circle taught him a lot about Islam.

Members of the Jewish/Muslim group decided to finish their dialogue with a meal on March 26 at the Gordon Jewish Community Center. Heller said he was surprised that there were no political discussions during the entire five weeks.

Pete Rich, a facilitator for Nashville DID!, said race issues have usually been chosen as the subject of study circles. However, the teen and Jewish/Muslim groups were successful experiments.

According to DID! coordinator Joanne Rich, more pilot groups are planned for late spring and early summer. She said the pilot groups would consist of some immigrant members, probably with Spanish-speaking people.

In the fall, DID! will sponsor another study circle session on race-related issues. For more information call 340-7450.

The Nashville Coalition Against Racism first offered study circles in 1997 in Nashville. A year later the group partnered with the Scarritt-Bennett Center to bring community-wide study circles to Nashville.

Filed under: City News